Matt Crossen, right, believes his England team can take the next step at this year's IPCPF World Cup in Barcelona ©England Football

Matt Crossen, England Cerebral Palsy (CP) captain, has supported his team to bridge the gap further against the leading nations at the 2022 International Federation Cerebral Palsy Football (IPCPF) World Cup in Barcelona.

Russia, Ukraine, and Brazil are ranked as the three best teams in the world, while Iran are fourth and England fifth.

England originally closed the gap at the 2019 IFCPF World Cup where they finished fourth in Seville in a tournament won by Russia. 

"The guys are fit, healthy and barring a couple of injuries that should be mended by then, we will be ready to roll," Crossen said.

"On our day we can beat anyone, and we just have to be on our day when it matters.

"I will back our lads against anyone - 100 per cent."

Many of England's CP players participate in mainstream football’s 11-a-side setup, but Russia and Ukraine’s competitive eight-a-side leagues are better equipped to CP football’s seven-a-side.

This format of football is designed for people able to walk whilst having cerebral palsy or other neurological disorders, triggered by health problems like strokes and traumatic brain injuries.

The sport involves two 30-minute halves and includes a classification system to understand their impairment and type of moment individuals have.

The latest classification system for international competition was introduced in 2018 with three classes - FT1, FT2 and FT3.

Those in FT3 have a more minimal impairment in comparison to those in the FT1 and FT2 classes.

The coronavirus pandemic has also hindered England CP’s preparation as CP football was stopped for 18 months.

England’s technical staff created training plans to keep the players active and England CP have held two camps at St. George’s Park in Burton, the national team’s training ground, over the last three months.

"It’s been hard obviously with COVID, wiping things off the calendars, but we have been training non-stop," Crossen said.

"We have our own programmes covering six days a week and it has been about sticking to that.

"I’ve had an injury myself recently, but the lads are all bang into their programmes, and they have kept going with it every month.

"It is just one of those things.

"We have a programme set to us ahead of our World Cup in April and we are gearing up for that really."

England played their first match in two years against Redditch United Under-19s on the last weekend of January.

Redditch were asked to mirror their opponents’ playing style to aid the team’s preparation.

Other pre-tournament matches include Scotland and the United States at England’s training ground in March.

The tournament is scheduled to take place between April 27 and May 16.